Paul Finebaum challenges Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork on NCAA defense, Hugh Freeze firing
Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork has been on somewhat of a media campaign in recent days, participating in radio and podcast interviews with a variety of Mississippi and SEC programs. Thursday, his latest interview was with the most distinguished radio host in SEC country — Paul Finebaum.
The SEC Network host challenged the Ole Miss administrator on a number of topics during the interview, including an attempt to get Bjork to come clean on the exact reasoning for Freeze’s firing. That question is particularly interesting when you consider Finebaum has hinted the decision wasn’t not entirely related to calls to an escort service.
As could have been expected, Bjork would not go into much detail and danced around the question.
Here’s the exchange Finebaum had with Bjork during his Thursday program on the SEC Network.
Finebaum: “You said that night it was a pattern of personal misconduct. You’re suggesting, clearly, if I understand you, this is more than one phone call to an escort service. This is a serious pattern of misconduct that you’ve discovered and that he admitted to?”
Bjork: “Paul, in other interviews that we’ve done proactively, like this one, we have talked about that and what we’ve said was that it’s very similar in nature. So the one phone call that’s been public, again, we looked at all of his phone records and calls of a similar nature…”
Finebaum: “Can you enlighten us? I realize there are some restrictions here but to the average person watching they have no earthly idea what you are talking about.”
Bjork: “I think all’s you have to do is go back to that one phone call that’s public. Look at the phone call and what was described, then look at our description that it’s a pattern. You look at Hugh Freeze admitted to the conduct. Out of his privacy, you can read between the lines that says this conduct is not acceptable when you are a leader in his position and we had to move forward from there.”
Later in the interview, Finebaum expressed some confusion about the nature of the Ole Miss defense in its upcoming hearing with the Committee on Infractions. Considering the school has released Freeze due to his misconduct off the field, arguing he ran a clean program in Oxford seems like an oxymoron.
Finebaum: “So, again, I’m sure some are digesting this in different ways, Ross, but you are going to appear in front of the (NCAA Committee on Infractions) and essentially say, ‘We have supported and defended Hugh Freeze from the beginning but we recently discovered that he has some personal failings and that’s why we separated him from the University but we are still defending his actions and his integrity as the head football coach’?”
Bjork: “Paul, I think you are choosing to add a word there that is not part of our defense. We have never said base it on Hugh Freeze’s integrity, we said base it on…”
Finebaum: “Well Ross, if I may interrupt, you believe his stewardship of this program has been honest — which I would interpret as someone being of high integrity if he’s running an honest program.”
Bjork: “High integrity that…”
Finebaum: “It sounds like you are suddenly saying you don’t have faith in Hugh Freeze and it just seems like this is a late switch in the game. I’m not arguing with you about semantics. I don’t know what you are going to say to that committee but you have certainly backed him to the hilt. I think that would be a fair statement.”
Bjork: “We have supported him along the way based on the facts of the case, based on how he ran the program, Paul. I don’t know what else to tell you.”
The SEC Network host’s finally question centered about when Ole Miss came to the conclusion that Freeze’s misconduct would cost him his position in Oxford.
Finebaum: “So did you or did you not consider firing him before the week of July 20th?”
Bjork: “Paul, as part of our analysis, we never got to that point. Again, we checked did he run compliance the right way and we believe he met those expectations.”